Perhaps because they are more intrusive than either earrings or necklaces, bracelet-wearing was confined to the upper arm for a very long time–at least, until humankind was able to sort itself into classes. There were the ones who served, and the others who moved little.
Our knowledge of early jewelry comes from archeological investigations of burial sites and the grave goods discovered there. The materials that were used were naturally occurring and organic, such as amber beads.
As time advanced, and people became more technologically sophisticated, we begin to see more and more complex manufacturing techniques, such as shaping stones and building pieces using clay, as well as harder material. The round form is a carved stone dating from the Neolithic period between about 10,700 BC to about 9400 BC.
At burial sites, strings of clay beads have been found. These are an example of the modification of a substance not necessary for survival.
Eventually, bracelets resembling those of today began to be seen in the Ancient Near East, in Egypt, and in Greece and Rome.
These bracelets, made of gold and silver, and using more advanced manufacturing techniques, speak to cultures of increasing sophistication and the elevation of the craftsman from mere laborer to artist.
We easily recognize the forms of ancient jewelry because they are the same ones we also use! And until goldsmiths invented a way to produce links, the bracelets we see are bangles made of coils or continuous pieces of gold, often inlaid with precious stones and even enamel.
As a testament to the value of jewelry, Greek painters and potters, commissioned to make grave monuments or funeral urns, used an often-repeated motif: the deceased has a maid servant bring her jewelry box to her, as we see in the vase painting at the right. This is a cultural trope which has been repeated over and over.
Romans were the original shopoholics. Their vast empire meant that they had access to the best raw materials from around the world, which flooded into Rome. The best craftsmen and artisans, the most rare gems and gold and silver all made their way to the center of the universe: Rome.
Here are Roman bracelets showing a snake motif and are worn on the upper arm. The next bracelet is a hinged cuff.
The modern bracelet in yellow gold, diamonds and blue sapphires is directly inspired by styles first seen in ancient Rome.
To Be Continued….